Reflections from COP18, Wednesday 5 December

Luke Kemp, Australian National University, Fenner School of Environment and Society

COP18 has made it clear that business as usual is no longer an option in regards to the climate regime, and this includes the decision-making of the UNFCCC. 

Consensus has become one of the rules that we love to hate in the UNFCCC.  It has given laggards and blockers a veto over the past years and has led to many stalled negotiations, late nights and missed opportunities. This issue has led to a proposal by Mexico and Papua New Guinea, to introduce majority voting into the COP, an item that has been discussed in Doha.  No contact group was established on this, but instead negotiations have been undertaken through bi-laterals and informal discussions.  The transparency issues of this process aside, it has become quite clear that this proposal will not be passed at COP18, but instead will be forwarded to the agenda of COP19.

Interestingly, consensus is not even the official rule of the COP; it is simply an informal default procedure that is used in the vacuum of having no rules of procedure. The COP never managed to agree to its rules of procedure originally and has essentially operated for two decades without any.   One rule (15.3) that is enshrined in the UNFCCC is that amendments to the Convention itself can be made through a three quarters majority vote.  Majority voting can be implemented through a majority vote – meaning that this is not a political impossibility for post-COP18 negotiations.

The problem, as always, is power politics.  It has become apparent that many States do not wish to lose their veto over a process which can fundamentally affect their national interests.  This is especially important for the superpowers of negotiations.  It is unlikely that the US will find it fair to have the same voting ability as a Small Island State. Yet, there is potential for creative compromise, such as weighting voting to reflect GDP or emissions.

The concept of majority voting, whether it is weighted or not, has been flying under the radar of negotiations, especially for civil society.  However, recently, YOUNGO has officially adopted support of the majority voting proposal as a group position.  It is vital that this issue receives further attention through negotiations and the wider public.  Why? Because majority voting may be one of the few ways forward for a process that is now being seen as a multilateral zombie.

Reflections from COP18, Wednesday 5 December

Luke McGreevy, Global Voices, Australia

On the second Wednesday of COP18, the first informal ministerial round table discussions were the highlight of the day. Several members of the youth NGO constituency to  the UNFCCC, known as YOUNGO, received passes to be able to hear officials discuss the issues that are most crucial to  their country. 

The meeting opened with a keynote speech from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The Secretary-General emphasised the need for political leadership in the climate change negotiations, and highlighted that all areas of government need to be involved in working on climate change policies. He also suggested that strategic partnerships between government, the private sector and civil society will be critical in the coming years. He announced that he is considering bringing together world leaders in 2014 to discuss climate change, to build momentum for the work on the Durban Platform in 2015.

As each country began to address the issues most crucial to expanding climate change efforts domestically, a number of themes began to emerge. As was noted by one of the Co-Chairs during the discussions, there was a lot of consensus around increased ambition of carbon-reduction pledges, especially in the pre-2020 period. There was also some acknowledgement of the positive moves made by France, Germany and the  United Kingdom in the last few days, in dedicating funds to  help finance mitigation and adaptation programmes in developing countries.

Areas still needing further discussion included, increasing the amount of finance available for mitigation and adaptation programmes, which many developing countries highlighted was the only way they could further their already significant domestic actions. The issue of  equity and the principles of the UNFCCC were also discussed in-depth, and Parties appeared to be talking past one another as little common ground was found on what the actual responsibility of developed and developing countries respectively should be. Overall, while many speakers emphasised the importance of keeping global temperature rise below 2⁰C, there were few signs that this goal is still achievable, due to the lack of ambition currently witnessed in these negotiations.

Reflections from COP18, Tuesday 4 December

Verona Collantes, UN Women

With negotiators saying yes to gender equality, it seems that where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Negotiations could drag on for years, even a decade, but they could also close in two days or less. Such was the case in the consultations on the draft text of the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) decision on “Promoting gender equality and improving the participation of women in UNFCCC negotiations and in the representation of Parties in bodies established pursuant to the Convention or the Kyoto Protocol”. What a welcome relief that in a very tense negotiating environment, where entrenched positions of key players delay reaching compromise agreements on many fronts, Parties could actually agree that gender equality must be promoted in the UNFCCC.

The prompt endorsement of this decision for consideration by the COP is very rewarding and a source of inspiration to someone like me who has seen protracted negotiations that remain in deadlock after a decade (yes, I’m talking about the Doha round of the World Trade Organization negotiations), or negotiations that resulted in failure to reach a compromise outcome because of controversial terms linked to sexual and reproductive health or sex education. The Rio+20 negotiations that went on until the wee hours of the morning the day before the high-level officials were expected to endorse the Outcome Document, also risked a deal or no deal package.

On the gender equality decision, I’ve seen delegations put forward what looked like a make or break deal; delegations were slighted and quieted down. But the high spirits lingered. The willingness to have a “historic decision”, as one of the co-facilitators kept on reminding the negotiators, was sustained throughout. It was clear to everybody in the room that they did not want to leave Doha without that gender issue gaveled. All delegates – women and MEN (yes, there were men there too) in a common endeavor to support what should be obvious, but unfortunately not yet so obvious to all, said, yes to gender equality in climate change negotiations.

But then again, we’re not done, we’re never done – the implementation awaits. So now, it is up to all of us to ensure that actions are taken not only on gender balance but ultimately, that this will result in a gender-sensitive climate policy for the benefit of all.

Reflections from COP18, Tuesday 4 December

Sareka Jahan, British Council, Bangladesh

The objective of my participation at COP18 is to raise the voice of gender and climate education. Since the beginning, I have followed all official discussions and side events on these two issues. At this round of negotiations, the first ever official gender day has been observed at COP18 and has encouraged me to engage more actively on gender justice. When the COP18 President Abdullah Bin Hamad Al Attiyah declared that gender is firmly on the agenda for COP18, I felt proud to be a gender activist.

Under the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) agenda Item 21; there has been a lot of discussion on the topic; mainly focusing on how gender can become a formal agenda and how to increase the participation of women by 2015. At the negotiation table, Least Developed Countries (LDCs) called for greater representation of women in the UNFCCC process. But exactly how many from developed and how many from developing is subject to further negotiation.

Climate Education is another area which I am devoted to, something evidenced in my regular endeavors around tailoring, customising and translating a web-based educational resource for teachers and students called Climate4Classrooms. I was privileged to be a panelist in the side event on “Engaging and empowering children and young people for resilience and green development” jointly organised by the British Council, Earth Child Institute, UNICEF and UNEP on 29 November. During the panel discussion; I shed light on innovative, web-based approaches of mainstreaming climate education in line with UNFCCC Article 6.

Community engagement was another core intervention area of the British Council delegation, in which I have taken a lead role in facilitating climate education sessions focusing on climate science, conceptual clarity and active engagement, with school students of Qatar being the primary audience of the sessions. Here we tried to ignite the interest of the young people of Qatar in climate change and to improve their understanding and ability to address adaptation and mitigation issues. Our journey will continue until the majority of world’s future generation is aware of climate change.

Reflections from COP18 Monday 3 December

Bremley Lyngdoh, Worldview Impact

Pam Puntenney, Environmental and Human Systems Management

Week one of COP 18 saw governments building upon their previous work from Bonn and Bangkok on Article 6 of the Convention (on education, training and public awareness), by creating a draft text, and – through the work of the Dominican Republic – a proposal was developed regarding procedures and clear lines of decision-making under the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI). At the end of the session, at 2:32 am, the SBI adopted the establishment of the Doha Work Programme on Article 6 of the Convention.

Of special note, on Saturday the Parties adopted an eight-year programme focusing on education, training, public awareness, public participation, public access to information, and international cooperation. The six elements have been clustered into two focal groups, alternating each year. In 2013, the first group – education and training – will be the topic of discussion for the first annual in-session dialogue on Article 6.

A review of the work programme will occur in 2020, with an intermediate review of progress in 2016. Broad stakeholder engagement is the centerpiece of the agreement. The question remains if Article 6 will be part of the negotiations and outcomes from the Climate Investment Fund (CIF). Without strong financial commitment to the programme of work, Article 6 will be marginalised as soft policy, difficult to justify. A second challenge surrounds the responsibility to enhance the programme of work through a multi-stakeholder, intergenerational platform of engagement.

Yesterday saw the launch of the UN Alliance on Climate Change Education, Training, and Public Awareness. The mission is to promote meaningful, result-oriented and effective international cooperation in support of the implementation of the Doha Work Programme on Article 6. This is an important starting point for UN agencies to ‘act as one’. The larger question, however, is can the Alliance transform their approaches to ones which engage stakeholders and therefore uphold Annex Section A (2) of the Programme.

Research shows that communities that are resilient to climate change impacts are based upon the culture, traditions and values, recognition of which is absent from the Bali Action Plan and the second set of Kyoto Protocol commitments.  This is where the Doha Work Programme on Article 6 will be the lens through which we work.

More info

The Work Programme can be viewed here: